Crawford Howell Toy.

The history of the religion of Israel : an Old Testament primer .. online

. (page 7 of 15)
Online LibraryCrawford Howell ToyThe history of the religion of Israel : an Old Testament primer .. → online text (page 7 of 15)
Font size
QR-code for this ebook


that of the prophet Ilosea) ascended the throne of Samaria.
He was a well-meaning man, and seems to have struggled hard
to maintain his country's independence. He adhered to the
worship of Yahwe, and even attempted some reform (2 Kings
xvii. 2). Seeing the overwhelming power of Assyria, he
acknowledged himself the vassal of Shalmaneser (who was now
on the throne), and paid him tribute. But soon after, he made
the mistake of rebelling against Shalmaneser, and entering into
alliance with Sabak (called in the Old Testament So), the
Kusliite king of Egypt. The Assyrians advanced against Israel,
and in b.c. 720 Sargon, who had succeeded Shalmaneser, cap-
tured Samaria, and then inflicted a decisive defeat on the
Egyptians. The people of Israel were carried away and settled
in Assyria, while men were brought from Assyria and settled in
Samaria and round about (2 Kings xvii. 24). So the Assyrians
used to do with all the nations they conquered.

2. The Fate of the Israelites. — Thus ended the kingdom
of Israel after an existence of about 240 years (b.c 9G0-720).
It had lived a troublous life, full of wars without and disorders
within. It had produced strong religious men like Elijah,
Elisha, and Hosea, and able kings, like Jeroboam I., Jehu, and
Jeroboam II. But its religious career ended prematurely, before
it had attained the knowledge of the one God. Its peo-

ple, however, were not destroyed. Some of them remained in
their own land and intermarried with the As.syrian colonists,
and from them sprang the Samaritans, of whom we read in the
book of Xehemiah and the Gospels. Others who were left in
the land probably went down into Judah and settled. Those
who were carried into Assyria settled there permanently. Some
of them intermarried with the inhabitants and ceased to be
Israelites. Others, no doubt, joined the people of Judah who
were afterwards carried to Babylon by Nebuchadnezzar. Tho.'-e
of them who remained faithful to the religion of their fathers



58 THE HISTORY OP THE

helped to form a distinct community which lasted hundreds of
years. They had great schools for the study of their law.
Here they remained till after the Moslem conquest, and then
made their way into Egypt and Spain, and thence into Fi-ance
and Germany. The Ten Tribes are no doubt now represented
to some extent in the Jews who are found all over the world.

3. Political History of Judah under Ahaz and Heze-
kiah. — Israel had passed away, but the kingdom of Judah was
to remain for 130 years yet. It was saved from overthrow, first
by submission to the Assyi'ians, and then by the fact that tlie
latter were occupied by wars with Egypt and other nations.
The reigns of Uzziah and his son Jotham (b.c. 780-740) were
comparatively quiet. Then came Ahaz, who was attacked by
the Syrians and Israelites, and called on the Assyrian king for
aid. The latter helped him, and Ahaz visited him as his vassal
at Damascus (2 Kings xvi. 10). In tlie year B.C. 726 Aliaz
died and was succeeded by his son Hezekiah. It was a time
that called for skill, decision, and bravery. The Assyrians were
overrunning the whole of southwestern Asia, nor could the
Egyptians stand before them. Hezekiah's only military hope
was in the quarrels of his powerful neighbors and the strength
of the city of Jerusalem. Against the petty peoples around
Judah, such as the Philistines, he was successful in war, and in
his later years he made an alliance with the king of Babylon
(2 Kings XX. 12, 13), who was at that time (about B.C. 710 or
701) in revolt against Assyria. Some years later the Assyrian
king Sennacherib overran the territory of Judah, and besieged
Jerusalem, but retired when Hezekiah acknowledged his author-
ity, and paid him a large sum in silver and gold. The Jewish
king thereupon made a treaty with the Kushite (Ethiopian)
Tirhakah. wlio then ruled over Egypt, and revolted from Sennach-
erib. The latter then again invaded Palestine, and, marching
by Jerusalem, went to meet the Egyptian army. On the eve of
battle, however, the Assyrian host was overwhelmed by some
dreadful calamity (2 Kings xix.), the nature of which is not
known, and Sennacherib returned home (b c. 701). Soon after
this Ilezi'kiah died (b.c. 697), and the land had rest.



RELIGION OP ISRAEL. 59

4. Religious History of Judah. — Judah's religious history
during the latter part of this century conipi-ises two important
events: a reaction by Ahaz, and a reform by Hezekiah. Ahaz
re-established the old Canaanite custom of human sacrifice (per-
haps it was also an old Israelite custom), and resumed worship
in the high places (2 Kings xvi. 3, 4). Possibly in this he was
imitating the idolatry of his friends the Assyrians; and the
people would not be slow to follow his example. Seeing an altar
that he liked at Damascus, he sent orders to the priest Urijah to
make a similar one for the temple of Yahwe at Jerusalem
(2 Kings xvi. 10-10). The priest obeyed, and the king pre-
scribed the sacrificial service. AH this was regarded as lawful
worship of Yahwe ; it seems that the strict rules of the book of
Leviticus did not exist at this time. But when Heze-

kiah came to the throne everything was changed. Fortunately
he was the obedient pupil of the prophet Isaiah, who was zealous
for the worship of Yahwe. All images of gods and pillars
erected to Ashera were destroyed. Among others there was a
bronze serpent that had long been au object of worship, and was
said to have been made by Moses for a particular purpose (Xum.
xxi. 9) ; Hezekiah broke it in pieces, calling it contemptuously
nehushtan, " a bronze thing." He went farther, and removed
the high places, where the people had worshipped Yahwe from
time immemorial. This seemed to many persons a violent pro-
cedure, — it appeared to be breaking up the worship of Yahwe;
and this was the report that the Assyrians had of it (2 Kings
xviii. 22). But Hezekiah suppressed these local places of wor-
ship in order to force his people to come up to the temple at
Jerusalem, where it would be possible to guard against idolatry.
It was a step in the right direction ; and though the next king
returned to the old practices, and the reform was not completed
for eighty years, Hezekiah laid the foundation of the work,

LITERATURE.

The commentaries on Kings and histories above mentioned,
especially Laiige, Schrader, George Smith, and Tiele. Also
Cheyne's " Prophecies of Isaiah," London, 1880.



60 THE HISTORY OF THE



QUESTIONS.

1. After the death of Jeroboam II., what was the fortune of Israel V
When Israel and Syria attacked Ahaz, king of Judah, whom did he call to
his aid 'i What became of the kingdom of Syria? Did its destruction help
Israel ? Who was the last king of Israel ? What was his character V Why
did he submit to Assyria ? What mistake did he afterwards make ? What
was the result '? In what year was Samaria captured by Sargon ? Is this
date tolerably certain V [Yes, it is assured by the Assyrian inscriptions.]
What became of the people of Israel ?

2. How long did the kingdom of Israel endure ? Did it produce great
men ? Did it reach clear religious knowledge 'i Were its people all de-
stroyed ? What became of those who remained in their own land V — of
those who were carried away to Assyria ? Where are they now ? What
would you say of attempts to tind the Ten Tribes in various Asiatic, Euro-
pean, or American nations? [Such attempts are folly.]

3. How long did the kingdom of Judah last after the fall of Israel ?
How was it saved from overthrow ? What was Ahaz's career ? Who was
his son and successor? When did he ascend the throne ? Was Hezekiah
successful against his petty neighbors ? Was he obliged to submit to the
Assyrians ? What became of the Assyrian army?

4. What two important events occurred in this period ? Describe the re-
action of Ahaz ? Was this then thought to be lawful ? When Hezekiah
came to the throne, did he follow his father's example? Who was his chief
adviser in religion? What did he do to the images ? — to the bronze ser-
pent? What is the story about Moses and this serpent? Did Hezekiah
suffer the high places to remain ? Why not ?



LESSON XII.

THE PROPHETS MTCAH AND ISAIAH.

1. The Groups of Prophets. — The prophets were preach-
ers, but preachers of a peculiar sort: their discourses were
always addressed to the nation. They denounced its vices, and
they looked forward to and depicted its future. Thus they were
eminently men of their times, and the tone of their writings
varies according to the changing outward and inward circum-



RELIGION OF ISRAEL. 61

stances of the people. We may group them by historical periods,
each period having certain political and religious characteristics :
1. The prophets of the Jehu dynasty, Amos and Hosea, when
the fall of Israel was impending; 2. The Judah prophets of
the first Assyrian attack, Micah and Isaiah I., after whom, at a
later time, follows Nahum; 3. The prophets of the Chaldean
period, Zephaniah, Habakkuk, Jeremiah, Obadiah; 4. The
prophets of the Exile, Ezekiel and Isaiah II. ; 5. The prophets
of the return. Haggai and Zechariah I; 6. The prophets of the
legal period, Malachi, Joel, Zechariah II.

2. The Times of Micah and Isaiah. — Before studying
the writings of INIicah atid Isaiah, let us look at the circumstances
of their time, and the ideas these circumstances gave rise to.
Judah was now beginning to be a paii; of the great world.
Heretofore it had been an isolated little land, warring with
tribes around it, but mostly unknown to and ignorant of the
great empires. Now approaches the time when it is to be ab-
sorbed into the world's history. It is to fall into the clutches
of Assyria, and then into the hands of the Babylonians, Persians,
Greeks, and Romans. In our survey of the history we have
come to the starting-point of this process, — the first attack on
Judah by Assyria. The question was, what to do. Isaiah and
his friends said, " Keep clear of foreign alliances, trust Yah we,
and he will take care of his people;" but Hezekiah did not
follow their advice. This was the burden of the

prophets' ciy: " We are Yahwe's people, and he will give us
victory over our enemies, and peace and prosperity." And as
the present did not offer this prosperity, they looked to the future
for its incoming, and painted a glorious time of triumph and
joy. In the different historical periods this time of joy was
portrayed in different forms. The peculiarity of the portraiture
in Ilezekiali's time is that Judah 's glory is expected to be
ushered in by an individual king, a descendant of David. For
the king was the natural head of the nation, and it was the
house of David that God had placed on the throne. Afterwards
this royal deliverer was called the ''anointed one," or the
Messiah (kings were anointed with oil at their coronation) ; and



62 THE HISTORY OF THE

SO we generally call this expectation of future glory for the peo-
ple the Messianic hope of Israel.

3. Micah. — Of Micah we know only what is stated in the
inscription of his pi'ophecy (and we cannot be always sure that
these inscriptions are wholly correct), that he preached in the
days of Kings Jothani, Ahaz, and Hezekiah (perhaps about B.C.
745-702), with one little incident recorded in Jer. xxvi. 18, 19.
He seems to have been a sad and passionate man (i. 8) ; it is
vengeance on sin that he mostly speaks of. The outline of his
book is this: after denouncing the sin of Israel and Judah, he
describes a march of the Assyrians through the territory of Judah
(i. 9-16), with many plays on the names of the various places;
it is hard to say whether this march is real or imagined. Next
comes a terrible picture of the wickedness of the people (ii.,
iii ), and then he turns to tell of the glorious time when many
nations should give u^p their own gods and worship Yahwe, and
wars should cease (iv. 1-5). Ziou's enemies were then pressing
her hard, and an Assyrian attack was expected, but the prophet
comforts himself with thought of that king, of the ancient
family of David, who should conquer the Assyrians (iv. 11-v. 8).
In later times this was supposed to refer to Christ (Mat. ii. 4-6) ;
but, though Christ was a great deliverer, it is not probable that
the prophet is referring to him here. Micah 's last discourses
have much to say about holiness of life (see the noble thought
in vi. 8). Society in his time was very corrupt, but he looks
hopefully to God's mercy (vii. 18-20). Notice the references
to the ancient times (vi. 4, 5, vii 15, 20).

4. The Life of Isaiah. — The prophet Isaiah is one of the
greatest figures of the Old Testament, and his book one of the
noblest, from the extent, vigor, eloquence, and lofty religious
sentiment of its discourses. He had a long career, beginning
in Uzziah's last year (Is. vi. 1), and reaching probably to the
close of Hezekiah's reign, about B.C. 750-700. There was a
tradition that he wrote the annals of Hezekiah's time (2 Chron.
xxxii. 32). But it is as prophet and statesman that he is known
to us. Disregarded by Aiiaz (Is. vii. 12), he became Heze-



RELIGION OF ISRAEL. 63

kiah's chief adviser (2 Kings xix. 2, xx. 1, 14), warned him
against trusting to Egypt and other nations, and, on the occa-
sion of Sennacherib's invasion, counselled him to resist the
Assyrians and ti'ust in Yahvve. For half a century his voice
was lifted up against the idolatry and wickedness of his people,
against religious formalism, for purity axid holiness (see chap. i.).
He looked steadfastly forward to the triumph of holiness in the
triumph of the pure worship of Yahwe.

5. Isaiah's Prophecies. — The book of the Old Testament
to which Isaiah's name is attached is a long one, of sixty-six
chapters. But not all of this was written by our prophet. The
second part, chapters xl.-lxvi. , is the work of a prophet of the
Exile, whom we will call the Second Isaiah (Isaiah II.). It is
probable, also, that the historical chapters, xxxvi.-xxxix., which
are interposed between the two parts, belong to the same period
(though they may be based on notes made by Isaiah or one of
his contemporaries) ; they are nearly identical with 2 Kings
xviii. 13-xx. Of the remaining thirty-five chapters, we must
leave out xiii. and xiv. 1-23, xv. and xvi. 1-12, and probably
xxi., xxxiv., sxxv. There still remains enough to illustrate the
prophet's genius and piety. Among the more striking discourses
may be mentioned the call to repentance in chapter i., the woes,
in v., the prediction of Assyria's overthrow, in x., and the picture
of the days of the rigliteous king, in xi. ; and the vision, in vi. ,
and the prophet's symbolical children, in vii. and viii., are not
less interesting. The discourses must be read not by chapters,
but as wholes, and it must be remembered that Isaiah had in
mind on the one hand Israel's political enemies, and on the other,
the idolatry, formality, and wickedness of the people.

6. Isaiah's Hope of the Future. — And to what future did
the prophet look forward for his people ? He expected political
independence and prosperity under a Davidic king. He sjieaks
of a prince born or to be born in his own time (ix. 6, 7), under
whom Israel should conquer its enemies, peace should prevail,
Yahwe should be worshipped everywhere, and even wild beasts
and serpents should become harmless (xi.). And there should



64 THE HISTORY OF THE

then be righteousness and holiness in the land. These hopes of
the prophet were not literally fulfilled. Egypt was never united
with Assyria in the worship of Yah we (xix. 21-25). No son of
David was ever after to be a conquering king. But in its broad
scope what the prophet looked for has really come to pass. The
purified knowledge of the one true God has been established in
the earth. Out of Israel came Jesus of Nazareth, the Messiah,
the Christ, who has taught us to worship the Father, and has
founded a kingdom more glorious and enduring than was ever
dreamed of by king or prophet. Isaiah's trust in God's right-
eousness and faithfulness was not a mistake.

LITERATURE.

1. On Micah: the general commentaries mentioned in Lesson
X. 2; Noyes.

2. On Isaiah: Delitzsch's Commentary, English translation,
Edinburgh, 1869; Cheyne's "Prophecies of Isaiah," London,
1880; Noyes.

3. Maurice's " Prophets and Kings of the Old Testament,"
Boston, 1853; Ewald's " Prophets of the Old Testament," Eng-
lish translation, London, 1875; W. R. Smith's "Prophets of
Israel," New York, 1882 ; articles on Micah and Isaiah in cyclo-
pedias; books of Introduction.

QUESTIONS.

1. What was the peculiarity of the prophets as preachers ? Do their
discourses vary in character according to the times ? How may we
group them ? How many groups ? Can you mention the prophets of each
group ?

2. Before studying the writings of the prophets, what is it proper to
learn ? When Assyria attacked .Judah, what did Isaiah coimsel V In
whose help did he trust? Did Judah attain to prosperity immediately?
When the present did not bring peace, to what point did the prophets look?
With what did the prophet's picture of future joy vary? What was its
form in the days of Micah and Isaiah ? What is meant by the Messianic
hope of Israel V

3. What do we know of Micah's life? What incident concerning him
is recorded in the boolc of Jeremiah ? What was his character? By whom



RELIGION OF ISRAEL. 65

does he expect Yahwe to deliver Jiidah from the Assyrians ? [iv. 2-v. 8.]
To whom did the early Christians think this referred? Is this view correct?
Can you mention a noble passage in Micah's writings ?

4. Was Isaiah a great man ? Why? How long did he prophesj'? Did
he write any book of history ? Was lie a faithful preacher ?

5. How many chapters in the book called by Isaiah's name ? Were all
these written by him? How many must we leave out ? Why ? [Because
they contain things that do not belong to his time.] Can you describe the
vision of chapter vi. ? How do we determine the date of any particular
chapter ? [By noting the historical allusions.] What history helps very
much in this ? [The Assyrian.]

6. What did Isaiah expect for his people ? Were these hopes ever lit-
erally fullilled ? In what sense have they been fuliilled ? Did Isaiah say
that the knowledge of God should fill the earth? [Chap. xi. 9.] Is this
now nearly true ? Did Isaiah look for a righteous king ? Has Jesus of
Nazareth founded a kingdom ? What is its nature ?



LESSON XIII.

THE REFORM OF JOSIAH.

1. Partial Character of Hezekiah's Reform. — In the

Lesson before the last we saw that King Hezekiah, probably
under the influence of the prophet Isaiah, tried to better the
national worship of Judah by destroying the idols all over the
land. The effect of this procedure was to direct men's minds
to Jerusalem as the centre of worship for the whole nation.
True, the people were attached to the old shrines, which were
more or less idolatrous ; but in those troublous times, when
powerful enemies were threatening the land, and Jerusalem was
the only safe place, it was easier for the reform party to put
down the local sanctuaries, and insist on the worship of Yahwe,
whose great temple was in the national capital. We

must not suppose, however, that Hezekiah's reform was spiritual,
like Luther's ; it did not attempt to teach men that God was to
be worshipped in spirit and in truth (though Tsaiah did insist on
this), but only to abolish the worship of foreign deities. Au(i

5



66 THE HISTORY OF THE

even in this outward respect it was not thorough ; we learn from
2 Kings xxiii. 13, that it was not Hezekiah but Josiah who
destroyed the shrines that Solomon had long before built to
Ashtoreth, Chemosh, and Milcom.

2. The Reaction under Manasseh. — Moreover, it appears
that what was done was the work of a reform party rather than
a movement of the nation. The prophets, with Isaiah at their
head, prevailed on the king to take vigorous measures against
the idols, but it was not so easy to bring the people to give up
the forms of worship that they had inherited from their fathers.
And so, when Hezekiah died, about b.c. 697, his son and suc-
cessor, Manasseh, set about restoring the former condition of
things (2 Kings xxi.). He rebuilt the high places which his
father had destroyed, re-established the Canaanitish worship of
Baal and the Ashera images, together with magic arts and
human sacrifices ; and further, in addition to Ahaz's sun-wor-
ship (2 Kings xxiii. 11, 12), he introduced the fuller worship
of the hosts of heaven (sun, moon, and stars). He

did not do all this without opposition. The Yah we party with-
stood him with all their might. We do not know whether
Isaiah was still alive (there is a late story that he was sawn
asunder by Manasseh), but his disciples (Is. viii. 16), the
prophets and others, no doubt tried to continue his work. The
king was not a mild-natured man, aud could not brook opposi-
tion ; he put to death those who stood in his way. The blood
of the Yahwe party flowed freely in Jerusalem. Not that he
refused to serve the God of Israel ; but he chose to serve other
gods as well; and the people doubtless approved his course. So
it went on throughout his long reign of fifty-five years. The
book of Chronicles says, indeed (2 Chron. xxxiii.), that he
repented and destroyed the idols ; but this does not agree with
the succeeding history as given in the book of Kings (compare
2 Kings xxiii. 12, with 2 Chron. -xxxiii. 15). His son and suc-
cessor, Amon, followed his father's example.

3. Progress of the Yahwe Party. — It might thus seem
as if Manasseh had destroyed all that Isaiah and Hezekiah had



RELIGION OF ISRAEL. 67

with so much labor built up; the people had gone back to idols.
But this was not the case. The party that favored the sole
worship of Yahwe was not dead, and subsequent events show
tiiat it was gathering force. Hezekiah had begun to concentrate
the national worship at Jerusalem, and pious men now saw that
this was a necessity for the people. Hitherto the prophets
generally had not disapproved of local shrines away from Jeru-
salem, provided they were devoted to Yahwe. But now, during
and after Hezekiah's reign, they began to say that the people
could never be weaned from other gods so long as they were
allowed to worship wherever they pleased in the land; they must
be required to go up to Jerusalem and offer their sacrifices in
the temple of Yahwe there, and then they would get into the
habit of worshipping Yahwe alone.

4. The Book of Deuteronomy. — After a while some pro-
phetic man, whose name we do not know, compiled a law book,
in which he laid it down as a rule that offerings must be made
only in Jerusalem. As this rule was believed to be necessary to
the true religious life of the nation, to be part of the law of
Yahwe, it was naturally represented as having been given by
the great prophet and lawgiver, Moses ; in those days it was the
custom to refer wisdom and authority to ancient sages. The
book thus prepared was the one that we call Deuteronomy. Its
legal part is contained in chapters xii.-xxvi. ; this includes
some older laws, together with customs which had been intro-
duced during and after Hezekiah's time. The law of the one
sanctuary is given in chapter xii. ; see especially verses 5 and
1-3, To this legal portion is prefixed a general exhortation
(put into the mouth of Moses) to be faithful to Yahwe (chapters
i.-xii.); and at the end follow blessings and curses (xxvii.-
XXX.), then a song (xxxii.), and a blessing of the tribes (xxxiii.)
(poems probably composed at an earlier time), and some histori-
cal statements (xxxi. and xxxiv.). This earliest of the great
law books of Israel is very interesting to us. It is the monu-
ment of a great religious conflict, and the sign of a great relig-
ious progress. It was the beginning of the movement that
produced the Pentateuchal legislation. And it is full of deep



68 THE HISTORY OF THE

and pure religious feeling. It is abundantly quoted in the
New Testament, for example in Matt. iv. 4, 7, 10.

5. Reform under Josiah. — We return now to the history
of Judah. After Amon came the young Josiah, a boy eight
years old, who for eighteen years let things go on as his father
and grandfather had conducted them. But in the eighteenth
year of his reign he was suddenly waked up by a curious event,
namely, the finding of a law book in the temple. The king
was engaged in repairing the temple (2 Kings xxii.), and, while
the work was in progress, the priest Hilkiah reported that he
had found a book of the law. The young king directed it to be


1 2 3 4 5 7 9 10 11 12 13 14 15

Online LibraryCrawford Howell ToyThe history of the religion of Israel : an Old Testament primer .. → online text (page 7 of 15)